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A Leech in the Upper Airway Tract: Case Report in CHU Oran and Review of the Literature

Benmansour Zakaria*

Department of Parasitology and Mycology CHU Oran, University Of Es Senia/Faculty of Medicine, Oran, Algeria

*Corresponding Author:
Benmansour zakarian
Department of Parasitology and Mycology CHU Oran
University Of Es Senia/Faculty of Medicine, Oran, Algeria
Tel: 00213770321576
Email: benzakarion31@yahoo.fr

Received Date: September 24, 2015; Accepted Date: November 10, 2015; Published Date: November 13, 2015

Citation: Zakaria B. A Leech in the Upper Airway Tract: Case Report in CHU Oran and Review of the Literature. Transl Biomed. 2015, 6:3. doi: 10.21767/2172-0479.100020

 
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Abstract

We report an unsual case of hemoptysis, aphonia and the sensation of something in the throat observed in a 64-year-old patient, with emphysema historyand smoker, who was admitted at the department of pneumologia of EHU Oran, Algeria. After 48 hours of admission, at fibroscopy examination he was finally diagnosed with live foreign body, the patient spontaneously expelled aleech after local anesthesia by xylocaine. Hirudo medicinalis was identified byparasitological examination. A complete disappearance of symptoms and the evolution is rapidly favorable. In Algeria, leech infestation are not uncommon where 120 cases were described between 1962 and 1971 by Gerlach, so even unusual causes like leech infestation came up to be an important differential diagnosisof patient with sign of bleeding or obstruction of the upper airways a high index of suspicion is of great help to make an early diagnosis and ensure prompt treatment.

Keywords

Hemoptysis; Hirudo medicinalis; Fibroscopy examination; Byparasitological examination

Introduction

Leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) have been used in medicine for thousands of years to treat a wide range of ailments. Nowadays, leeches are used successfully for only a few conditions, notably in the field of reconstructive or microsurgery. However, they can act like parasite and infest human which cause wide range of symptoms. The species of human importance (order: Gnathobdellida; family: Hirudinidae) are divided into land leeches and aquatic leeches. Aquatic leeches enter the human body through orifices and occur worldwide. Human infestation with land leeches is more common than with aquatic leeches, but the latter more commonly cause dangerous infestations [1]. Aquatic leeches live in fresh water and have weak jaws because they do not require attachment to the skin for feeding purposes but to the mucosa. Infestation is rare. Most cases occur in low-income countries where access to safe water is a problem [2]. Some cases have been reported from Europe [3]. Aquatic leeches enter the human body during swimming or drinking by attaching to the conjunctiva, mucousmembranes of the nose, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, urethra, vagina, or anus, or else. In this paper we report an unusual case of upper airways obstruction by leech infestation and we review some similar cases in the literature.

Case Report

M.A a 64-year-old male patient, from Saida city, with emphysema history and smoker, wasreferred from the Saidahospital to the department of pneumology of the EHU Oran for exploration of hemoptysis. At admission the patient presented abundant hemoptysis, dysphonia, pain and sensation of something in the throat. The patient was hemodynamically stable without fever. Theinitial ortholyringique, cardiaque, radiologic exploration, complete blood countand coagulation tests were normal. In the fibroscopique examination there was a bleeding from his vocal cords and a live dark brown mass could be seen on the pharyngeal surface. The removal of the parasite was impossibleso local anesthesia was instaured using xylocaine in order to paralyze the parasite. After fibrscopy the patient expelled the parasite and it was brought to the parasitology and medical mycology department of the CHU Oranand identified as themedicinal leech Hirudo medicinalisn (Figure 1). Retrospective history showed that the patient has a farm in rural area, nearby there is stream of fresh water and he usually drinks this water. He has history with leech infestation in the past, he used traditional treatment by ingestion of chewing tobacco but this time this treatment was not effective. Bleeding ceased soon after the leech was expelled and discharged without any problem on the next day. Follow-up one week later revealed no further symptoms.

Translational-Biomedicine-parasitologie

Figure 1: Photo chu oran service de parasitologie.

Discussion

Leeches belong to the Annelida phylum and Hirudinea class. Most of leeches are hematophagous, which makes them predominantly blood suckers that feed on blood from vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Almost 700 species of leeches have been described. Among them, 100 species are marine, 90 terrestrial and the rest of them live in freshwater.

Leeches are parasites that vary in color and range in length from a few millimeters to half a meter; they are cylindrical or leaf - like in shape, depending on the contraction of their bodies, Leech bodies are composed of 34 segment [4]

A leech has two suckers, one at each end. The mouth is located on the small sucker and has three jaws with sharp teeth that make a Y-shaped incision in the flesh [2].

In tropical regions, leech bites on the skin are a common event. However, serious consequences of leech bite injury to the internal viscera are uncommon. If they do occur, they can cause significant morbidity and may even be fatal [1]. The clinical symptoms are variable depending on location. Internal attachment of leeches in different areas of human body such as nose [5], pharynx [6], larynx [4], vagina [7], bronchi, eyes and rectum have been reported in several cases.

After the contaminated water is drunk, the leech may adhere to anywhere along the upper aero digestive tract. Possible areas are the nasal cavity oropharynx and hypopharynx, larynx, trachea, and esophagus

From that location they secrete a cocktail of anticoagulant substances among them hirudin, which inhibits coagulation of the blood and start to suck blood, leeches ingest blood averaging 890% of their weight, for these reasons they can cause severe anemia. They grow rapidly through blood sucking and may stay where they are for some weeks.

Leech endoparasitism described worldwide, and for the pharyngolaryngeal localization cases came from Africa (morocco, Ethiopia), India and Middle East (Turkey, Iran, Syria, Yemen) and one case from developed country Spain (Table 1). Our case is the first case described from Algeria in decades.

Country (area) Age/Gender Mode of contamination Symptoms Complications Duration Diagnostic Removal Leech (lengh(cm)) Evolution References
Morocco 17 m/M Swimming
15
Hematemesis
Pallor
Fever 38°C
POLYPNEIQUE
Cough
Respiratory distress
ANEMIA
One week Fibroscopy One week
endoscopy
forceps 5/1.5 discharged [8]
Yemen 60/M Drinking
2 months
Progressive hoarseness, blood stained sputum, mild throat pain
Hemoptysis
  One month Indirect laryngoscopy –
One month
Spontaneously expelled 5.5/1 discharged  [9]
India 48/M Drinking Cyanotic
Severe breathlessness
Difficulty of speaking
Inspiratory stidor with bilateral decreased air
  3 hours Indirect laryngoscopy
3hours
Direct laryngoscopy
Attached to the forceps
5/0.5 discharged [10]
Turkey 7/M   spitting blood
inspiratory stridor
    Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscpy
General anesthesia
forceps
  discharged [4]
35/M   spitting blood   3 months Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscopy
local anaesthesia
5    
8/F   spitting blood,
difficulty in breathing
inspiratory stridor
    Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscpy
General anesthesia
forceps
4    
42/M   spitting blood, dysphagia
feeling of a foreign body in the throat
  2 weeks Indirect laryngoscopy
2 weeks
Direct laryngoscopy
local anaesthesia
forceps
     
Syria 6/M Drinking Cough; hemoptysis;  sensation of suffocation; stridor Severe respiratory distress
Cachectic
Cyanotic
pale
3 hours Indirect mirror laryngoscopy
3 hours
One month
General anesthesia forceps 7 discharged [11]
Morocco 38 /F Drinking Toux, hemoptysis, dyspnea, aphonie   10 days Fibroscopy Laryngoscpie direct
forceps
4cm discharged  [12]
Spain 34/M drinking a foreign
body sensation in his throat
hemoptysis
dysphagia
recurrend hemoptysis dysphagia melena and progessive nocturnal dyspnea
  1 week transnasal laryngoscopy
1 week
local anesthesia failed
under general
anesthesia, the microlaryngoscopic extraction
Theromyzontessulatum
5cm
  [3]
Turkey 5/F Drinking Vomiting fresh blood
Epistaxis, Pallor
Tachycardie
fever
anemia 3 days Laryngoscopy Local anesthesia Limnatisnilotica
3.7/0.7
discharged  [13]
Turkey 8/F Drinking several days
hemoptysis
subfebrile
      forceps Limnatislinotica
5/1
discharged [6]
Iran 73/M Drinking intermittent hemoptysis,
dysphagia,dyspnea
stridor
    fiberoptic laryngoscopy 4 ml lidocaine   discharged [14]
                     
Iran 41/F Drinking Respiratory distress
Tachypnea, stridor, feeling something in the throat vomiting nausea
    laryngoscopy General anesthesia
Lidocaine
forceps
  discharged [15]
Morocco  71/F Drinking hemoptysis anemia 8 days Expelled from the nose   7/1.5 discharged [16]
Ethiopia 7/M Drinking Blood stained saliva, shortness of breath Anemia 14 days Laryngoscopy Forceps
General anesthesia
6 discharged [2]
                     
Iran 64/M Drinking
8
Hemoptysis ,sensation of foreign body, dysphonia, mild respiratory distress     Indirect laryngoscopy General annsethesia
Rigide laryngoscopy
forceps
5.5 discharged  [17]

Table 1: Literature review about laryngeal leech infestation

Country (area) Age/Gender Mode of contamination Symptoms Complications Duration Diagnostic Removal Leech (lengh(cm)) Evolution References
Morocco 17 m/M Swimming
15
Hematemesis
Pallor
Fever 38°C
POLYPNEIQUE
Cough
Respiratory distress
ANEMIA
One week Fibroscopy One week
endoscopy
forceps 5/1.5 discharged [8]
Yemen 60/M Drinking
2 months
Progressive hoarseness, blood stained sputum, mild throat pain
Hemoptysis
  One month Indirect laryngoscopy –
One month
Spontaneously expelled 5.5/1 discharged  [9]
India 48/M Drinking Cyanotic
Severe breathlessness
Difficulty of speaking
Inspiratory stidor with bilateral decreased air
  3 hours Indirect laryngoscopy
3hours
Direct laryngoscopy
Attached to the forceps
5/0.5 discharged [10]
Turkey 7/M   spitting blood
inspiratory stridor
    Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscpy
General anesthesia
forceps
  discharged [4]
35/M   spitting blood   3 months Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscopy
local anaesthesia
5    
8/F   spitting blood,
difficulty in breathing
inspiratory stridor
    Indirect laryngoscopy Direct laryngoscpy
General anesthesia
forceps
4    
42/M   spitting blood, dysphagia
feeling of a foreign body in the throat
  2 weeks Indirect laryngoscopy
2 weeks
Direct laryngoscopy
local anaesthesia
forceps
     
Syria 6/M Drinking Cough; hemoptysis;  sensation of suffocation; stridor Severe respiratory distress
Cachectic
Cyanotic
pale
3 hours Indirect mirror laryngoscopy
3 hours
One month
General anesthesia forceps 7 discharged [11]
Morocco 38 /F Drinking Toux, hemoptysis, dyspnea, aphonie   10 days Fibroscopy Laryngoscpie direct
forceps
4cm discharged  [12]
Spain 34/M drinking a foreign
body sensation in his throat
hemoptysis
dysphagia
recurrend hemoptysis dysphagia melena and progessive nocturnal dyspnea
  1 week transnasal laryngoscopy
1 week
local anesthesia failed
under general
anesthesia, the microlaryngoscopic extraction
Theromyzontessulatum
5cm
  [3]
Turkey 5/F Drinking Vomiting fresh blood
Epistaxis, Pallor
Tachycardie
fever
anemia 3 days Laryngoscopy Local anesthesia Limnatisnilotica
3.7/0.7
discharged  [13]
Turkey 8/F Drinking several days
hemoptysis
subfebrile
      forceps Limnatislinotica
5/1
discharged [6]
Iran 73/M Drinking intermittent hemoptysis,
dysphagia,dyspnea
stridor
    fiberoptic laryngoscopy 4 ml lidocaine   discharged [14]
                     
Iran 41/F Drinking Respiratory distress
Tachypnea, stridor, feeling something in the throat vomiting nausea
    laryngoscopy General anesthesia
Lidocaine
forceps
  discharged [15]
Morocco  71/F Drinking hemoptysis anemia 8 days Expelled from the nose   7/1.5 discharged [16]
Ethiopia 7/M Drinking Blood stained saliva, shortness of breath Anemia 14 days Laryngoscopy Forceps
General anesthesia
6 discharged [2]
                     
Iran 64/M Drinking
8
Hemoptysis ,sensation of foreign body, dysphonia, mild respiratory distress     Indirect laryngoscopy General annsethesia
Rigide laryngoscopy
forceps
5.5 discharged  [17]

Table 1: Literature review about laryngeal leech infestation

Aquatic leeches are common in Algeria where two species have been described Hirudo medicinalis and Limnatis nilotica. In the past leeches infestation were a major cause of morbidity and mortality for animals, and even cases of human infestation were described in French soldiers, travels and gerlach’s series [8-10]. At present, the situation is unclear rarely described maybe because of adequate safe water supply and/or the use of traditional medication by the local population to remove the leech.

We also performed literature review about pharyngolaryngeal leeches infestation from 1999 to 2015. There are 17 cases reported in the literature (Table 1). The age distribution of patients is ranged from 17 months to 73 years. The male are more affected than female (11 vs 5).

The major symptoms reported are the result of bleeding such as hemoptysis, hematemesis and blood in sputum sometimes associated with symptom of obstruction (dysphonia, cough, sensation of something in the throat, dyspnea, and even suffocation) and fever in children. Any delay of diagnostic can lead to lethal complications such as severe anemia and suffocation.

The symptoms may be misdiagnosed as asthma, laryngitis, tuberculosis, hookwormand malignancies [11].

The diagnostic of leech infestation was done by laryngoscopy or fibroscopy. And in some cases until the patient spontaneously expelled the leech [9] and only in few reports diagnostic was suspected on the medical history of the patient.

All patients have a contact with exposed water; the mode of contamination is more likely drinking than swimming (Table 1)

Removal of leeches from the larynx is difficult, can be performed by direct laryngoscope with the patient under general or local anesthesia and the parasite is extracted with forceps, in fortunate cases the leech was spontaneously expelled by the patient [9], after application of xylocaine in our case or attached to the forceps [10].

In four reports patients consulted only when they failed to remove the leech with traditional medicine (ingestion of chewing tobacco as our patient, dehydratation….). The application of traditional medications may lead to dislodging of the leech deeper and may result in suffocation to death [2].

The length of leeches ranged from to 3.7 to 7 cm. Only 4 reports identified the leech to species level Myxobdella Africana in 6 cases from Kenya, Limnatis linoticain 2 cases from turkey and Theromyzon tessulatum in one cases from Spain [3,6,13-21].

After the removal the evolution is favorable and all patient discharged, in some cases blood transfusion or iron supplement were required to correct the anemia.

Conclusion

Leeches endoparasitism should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients with hemoptysis and or signs of airways obstruction, especially in patients with a history of contact with unfiltered water where aquatic leeches are commonly found.

Cases such as this should be considered as emergencies, and all measures should be taken to avoid complications and death. Therefore, to prevent leech infestation in endemic regions, local people are advised to be informed more effectively about the necessity to use safe water.

References

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